UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Speaking the same language


UNC Business - Spring 2014

Born into a multicultural family in Argentina, Mabel Miguel (PhD ’93) has lived, worked and taught in six countries and on four continents. 

The UNC Kenan-Flagler organizational behavior professor—who is fluent in Spanish, English and proficient in French—became equally well versed in foreign cultures. When she settled in the United States to serve as a consultant recruitment coordinator for the United Nations, Miguel developed an even deeper understanding of cross-cultural management, which has made her an invaluable resource to today’s globally minded business students and executives.

Miguel shares her global expertise and experiences by infusing leadership lessons that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries into the leadership and management courses she teaches in MBA and UNC Executive Development programs. 

“Mabel brings a lot of credibility as someone who has lived and worked in a variety of cultures,” said Susan Cates (MBA ’98), UNC Executive Development president and MBA@UNC executive director. “She introduces herself as a citizen of the world and has the background to back that up, which is particularly valuable since global business topics are extremely important to our corporate and government clients.” 

Miguel works with UNC Executive Development to create custom programs for leading corporations and government agencies that are designed to address specific organizational challenges, such as managing international teams’ cultural differences. Program participants are drawn not only to her international expertise but also to her dynamic teaching style. 

“Mabel brings an extraordinary level of energy to her classroom. One of our executive development participants summed it up best,” said Cates. “He said the greatest threat to his company’s dominance of the energy industry would be if someone found a way to bottle Mabel.” 

Whether she’s recounting tales from her studies in France, describing her experiences living in Turkey or sharing lessons learned from the U.N. headquarters, Miguel engages students by illustrating course topics with examples from her travels and career.

“I believe in storytelling, and I have many stories,” said Miguel. “I think storytelling moves students and leaves a far deeper, more impactful impression than just lecturing.” 

Mabel Miguel - UNC Kenan-FlaglerMiguel also invites students to tell their own stories. Recognizing that the typical UNC Kenan-Flagler classroom is filled with students from a wide variety of cultural and professional backgrounds, she taps into their wealth of diverse experiences to discover relevant, real-life lessons in leadership. 

“Mabel is especially adept at engaging our program participants and creating a dialogue among them,” said Kip Kelly, director of marketing and business development for UNC Executive Development. “Her teaching style gives participants the opportunity to share their own knowledge and experience, which is extremely valuable.” 

Miguel encourages students to share what they’re learning about their leadership style and skills, allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of themselves in the process. She’s found that sharing fosters an improved sense of self-awareness. When combined with self-assessment exercises and peer feedback, Miguel’s students develop a clear understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and individual leadership styles. They leave her classroom with a detailed plan to sustain professional growth long after the course ends—no matter where their careers lead them. 

“Self-knowledge and self-awareness are truly global business skills. No matter what position or location they end up in, students need to be self-aware about at least three things: their personal leadership styles, their values and their skills.”

While Miguel has long been teaching these global business basics at universities around the world, she recently ventured into unchartered territory: virtual teaching for online education. She teaches an MBA@UNC course on developing managerial and leadership skills. Although her vivacious personality and passion for teaching would easily translate onto even the smallest of screens, Miguel was initially concerned that her virtual classroom would lack the collaborative atmosphere that makes the UNC Kenan-Flagler experience so special. 

“One thing about the culture of UNC Kenan-Flagler that most impresses me is that teamwork is not just a value on a plaque in the lobby here; it’s genuine,” said Miguel. “We have a very collaborative and supportive environment.” 

Mabel Miguel - UNC Kenan-FlaglerBut when Miguel led MBA@UNC students to Istanbul for a Global Immersion, she found that her fears were unfounded. As she helped her online students explore intercultural communication with peers from Turkey’s Koç University, she suddenly didn’t feel very far from Chapel Hill. 

“It was obvious when I saw my students come face-to-face in Istanbul that they had managed to build very real relationships in a virtual space,” said Miguel. “They saw themselves not only as individuals but as part of a larger whole—the larger UNC Kenan-Flagler community.” 

Miguel hopes those bonds will last well beyond the length of the course. In fact, she frequently reaches out to the UNC alumni network to serve as mentors and speakers in her classroom. As she was astounded to learn early in her career at UNC Kenan-Flagler, a call for volunteers can easily net more alumni than there are students in the course. 

“One of the most amazing things I’ve experienced here has been the alumni network, and I don’t want to lose that as we become an increasingly global program,” said Miguel. “I want to invite all alumni, whether they’re based in the United States or around the world to keep in touch and stay involved. Just keep thinking Carolina blue.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of UNC Business. Access interactive content and read more by downloading our free app for iPhone or Android.